NHS boss suspended in probe over cash crisis

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A SENIOR executive at a Yorkshire NHS trust has been suspended and is facing disciplinary action after its accounts were “misstated” by nearly £8 million.

Janet Ashby, director of finance at Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, has not been at work since March when a whistleblower warned its board of “financial irregularities”.

Investigations established the trust was £7.4m in deficit despite previous assurances from Mrs Ashby that it would return a small surplus.

Full details of what happened are still being kept under wraps by NHS managers but the trust’s annual report reveals the accounts had been “misstated”.

Figures presented to board directors showed operational deficits throughout the year but due to “various amendments (some of which were unsupported) small surpluses were reported”.

It added: “The true financial position had been masked during the year through the treatment of non-recurrent income and deferred revenue.”

Experts from private consultants KPMG were drafted in to carry out a forensic investigation into the irregularities, examining how the trust’s finances had been managed since 2012.

New figures in a financial turnaround plan ordered by regulator Monitor reveal the trust is forecasting a £6.3m deficit next year on top of a £11.9m deficit in 2014-15. Around £6m in cost savings will be required in each year.

Trust officials initially said Mrs Ashby was on sick leave from her £100,000-a-year post but have now confirmed her suspension.

Chief executive Diane Wake said yesterday: “The trust has concluded a thorough investigation of the financial deficit reported for the 2013-14 year, supported by a comprehensive external review undertaken by KPMG. This has enabled us to build a robust turnaround plan which I am pleased to say has been accepted by Monitor and our progress scrutinised in monthly review meetings.

“As part of the investigative process the director of finance was suspended from duty with a hearing taking place earlier this month. I am unable to share more details on either the misrepresentation of the finances, or the outcome of this hearing, as the formal process is ongoing.”

She said there had been a significant improvement in A&E waiting times as part of the turnaround plan.

“We would like to once again reassure patients that safe, quality care remains our priority and that despite these difficulties we are continuing to provide the same high levels of care that our patients need and deserve,” she added.

The turnaround plan sets out details of a review of clinical services at the trust to find out which are profitable and sustainable.

A five-year strategic plan to be completed in December is expected to set out which services will continue to be provided from Barnsley’s hospital or which may be provided at other hospitals, shared with other organisations or in the community.